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North Carolina Hits $15 Trillion Baby Boomer Market Bullseye


North Carolina Hits $15 Trillion Baby Boomer Market Bullseye Comments

Raleigh-Durham has become known as a global leader in both the medical and technology fields, which has helped position it on the leading edge of the baby boom.  It is home to Research Triangle Park and world-class healthcare treatment and research facilities like Duke University Hospital, University of North Carolina Hospital, and Rex Hospital.  This rich intellectual history is informing a new trend and allowing North Carolina to lead the way when it comes to the emerging market of Home Accessibility and Mobility equipment, a unique field that is located right at the intersection of aging, technology, and healthcare.  Combine this trend with the fact that Raleigh has been named the #1 city in America to retire by CNN Money and you have a prime destination for businesses and entrepreneurs who are looking to cater to a virtually untapped market of wealthy Baby Boomers.  



If you and your company haven’t been paying attention to Baby Boomers, here is why you need to start:  Baby Boomers, thoseborn between 1946-1964, account for 44% of the population of the United States, yet control 70% of discretionary income.   The Boomers have earned their nickname not only because they are the result of a huge spike in birth rates, but also because they were born into a booming economy.  While their parents struggled through the Great Depression, they were born into a prosperous America where you could still get a good job right out of high school and going to college didn’t leave you facing insurmountable student loan debt.  Homeownership was practically a birth right and it was common to stay with one company for the entire length of your career.  All these economic factors allowed Boomers to accumulate wealth that they are now ripe to spend.  

The problem is that marketers simply haven’t been capitalizing on this segment of the population.  Despite the fact that Boomers buy 49% of consumer packaged goods, advertisers only spend about 15% of their budgets targeting the over 50 crowd.  With $3 trillion dollars to spend, Baby Boomers are careful about product messaging and where they invest their money and a lot of companies are simply missing the mark.   No one wants to purchase products that remind them that they are old or that are marketed as ways to simply stave off death.  At the same time, not every 85 year old is out running marathons and redefining aging.  Marketers have to be realistic about needs and wants without being insulting or patronizing.  It is a fine balance, but the payoff could be worth it.  As Jody Holtzman, Senior Vice President of Thought Leadership at AARP says, “You’d have to be an idiot to turn your back on this humongous growth market.”  
Where some companies are shying away from this challenging demographic, North Carolina companies are leading the way by creating a stronghold on the affordable home accessibility and mobility equipment market.  The needs of this growing demographic of older adults have been the driving force behind new collaborative efforts between technology and health sectors.  North Carolina has become a hotspot for new products and services and a home to industry leaders.  With a track record of creating over 300 new technology companies since 1970, it only seems natural that RTP has the experience and brain trust to effectively reach the elusive senior market. 
In fact, North Carolina is home to two of the nation’s largest distributors of mobility equipment.  101 Mobility is headquartered in Wilmington, NC and has locations across the country.  While they specialize in providing equipment to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, they also work with individual customers to do home installations.  Their mobility products span the full spectrum of available technology.  From stair lifts and power scooters to automobile lifts, they provide access to necessary tools that often aren’t covered by insurance or Medicare.
Another giant in the mobility and accessibility industry is based out of North Carolina’s capitol city of Raleigh.  AmeriGlide both manufactures and distributes a variety of mobility and accessibility products although they specialize in residential stair lifts.  They have managed to set themselves apart from the competition by following a unique business model that eliminates overhead costs and by manufacturing stair lifts that have been engineered for do-it-yourself installation, saving customers hundreds on installation costs.  
Instead of spending money on marketing campaigns and costly television commercials, AmeriGlide keeps their operating costs low by relying on more affordable online marketing techniques to get the word out about their products.  This allows them to offer affordable products to those who do not qualify for Medicare reimbursement programs.  In addition, they are one of the only companies to sell stair lifts that can be installed using some basic tools and mechanical knowledge in just a few hours.  For seniors struggling on a fixed income, saving upwards of $500 on installation costs can make the difference between being able to afford necessary mobility and accessibility equipment and being held captive on one floor of their home:   “I am pretty much trapped in my home.  I have a partner but if he were to carry me up/down any of these stairs, he’d end up with a herniation,” says Julie Finley, a shopper in need of an outdoor lift.  Some seniors are even forced to completely abandon the home where they have spent decades creating memories and raising their families.
Initially, AmeriGlide got its start as an online retailer, but in recent years they have expanded their business model to incorporate retail locations across the country.  This includes a brand new 10,000 square foot showroom in Raleigh, which is the largest of its kind in the Southeast region and quite possibly the country.  Brick and mortar locations are an essential component of spreading public awareness about mobility and accessibility options and addressing the future of aging.  While studies show that Baby Boomers are more computer savvy than younger generations give them credit for, there are some people who are turned off by online shopping and prefer to do their research and purchasing in person.  Retail locations help bridge any gaps in meeting the varying needs of a diverse Baby Boomer population.
As we enter an unprecedented era where providing for the needs of a historically large aged population will present a host of unforeseen challenges, businesses that are interested in providing for this market should be turning their attention to North Carolina.  A unique set of circumstances has the state primed and ready to successfully meet the needs and wants of a wealthy and influential portion of the population that has been largely ignored thus far.  Any forward thinking business looking to stay relevant in an evolving marketplace should be following the example of companies like 101 Mobility and AmeriGlide.



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